► Our new fleet flagship!
► V10 drop-top over the summer
► Jake is one very lucky boy
From one end of the VW Group performance spectrum to the other. I've just handed back the keys to my VW Up GTI and, two years since my colleague James Taylor ran a pre-facelift Vegas Yellow 'Plus' coupe, an Audi R8 returns to the Our Cars fleet: this time with more power, more price and more exposure to the elements.
This is by far the fastest, loudest and most expensive long-term test car in our current line-up: 612bhp, 3.2sec 0-62mph with launch control, 204mph and one of the most exhilarating engines of recent years – Audi and Lamborghini's epic (and supposedly not long for this world) naturally-aspirated V10. Our Spyder's millions of miles of headroom is a bonus.
And boy am I revelling in the attention a £170k-all-in supercar gets you. There is a queue out of the door of people who either want it for the weekend or want a ride in it. So much that I'm debating keeping the key in a safe only I know the code to, or putting a 20ft sign on my driveway saying 'you must be this tall to ride'. It's mine, I tell you – MINE. Even out and about, this is up there with the BMW i8 for the level of stares from passers-by and it's a magnet for all kinds of motoring hooligan. Which can get annoying when there's a guy in a Fiesta ST with a unsilenced silencer less than six inches from the R8's bluff rear end.
In my messed-up mind, there are a couple of parallels between the Up and this. They both sound great, they're both practical for their class of car and they're both a bit of a performance bargain, even if the R8 is more than 10 times the price of the VW hatch. When a McLaren 600LT Spider is another £50k before options, is arguably less usable as a daily drive and absolutely does not come with a screaming V10, the Audi looks like good value.
The R8's flamboyant Italian cousin, the Huracan Evo Spyder, might have a touch more theatre and another 19bhp, but together are they worth £65k-(ish) more? I'm not so sure. That amount could get you a second, also-very-good car.
My first-ever drive of an R8 (I've somehow managed to miss every prior opportunity) was the regular blue coupe we featured in the May issue's Giant Test now part of our best sports cars page online, and I was a little underwhelmed. True, it sounds epic and it looks every inch a supercar, but it drove a little too much like an A3, understeered a bit too much for my liking, and low-rev grunt was lacking, too. Plus, the standard brakes fade too easily.
My car, being both a Performance R8 (with ceramic brakes as standard) and a Spyder, is a different kettle of fish. The brakes are an absolute godsend when you're on maximum attack, and the engine has a touch more low-rev bite. Its magnetic-ride adaptive dampers are also impressive, with a welcome suppleness when cruising. So, pretty much all my previous R8 gripes addressed from the off...
I mention cruising, but the R8 isn't a car you find yourself cruising in for long. Why would you when there's more than 600bhp under your right foot? I'm only in my first month with the R8 and I'm already finding excuses to drive new, longer and twistier routes everywhere – in fact I've actually ticked 'avoid motorways' on the nav a few times just for the hell of it.
But these are the lengths you'll go to feed your addiction to the V10. Acceleration is incredible and, together with the epic noise, entirely intoxicating.
The Audi offers Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual drive modes, selected via a button on the steering wheel. Performance models also feature a race flag button for lairy Performance mode: traction control off, snappier shifts and manual changes via the paddles. You can also twist that dial for dry, wet and snowy conditions. Launch control is there, too, and an absolute doddle to engage – pity the car's clutch...
Right now? I just want to drive. Switch to Individual mode (Comfort suspension, Dynamic everything else), roof down, sunglasses on, revs up and don't stop until it needs a drink. I've a feeling this is going to be a fun six months.
Our R8's key options
Just hold me
The £475 fixed-back race-spec seats are standard on Performance models but the part-leather, part-alcantara upholstery and blue stitching you see here are options. Skinny but supportive in all the right places.
B&O vs Audi V10
It's not often you'll want to drown out the V10, but when you do the optional (£1750) Bang & Olufsen sound system throws in surround speakers in the headrests with noise-cancellation tech.
£1250 of forged aluminium beauty. Performance R8s run on 19s as standard, but if you don't pick these gorgeous 20s you're doing something wrong.
A £1700 option that's already proving its worth on motorway cruises. Passive dampers on regular R8s are manageable but firm; this adaptive set-up means Comfort mode really is comfortable.
The most expensive extra at £3150, spotted via their unique blue lens accents, they're designed to double the length of your high beam. They come with their own radiation warning labels, but unlike Cyclops from X-Men there's no destructive potential here. Lame.
Logbook: Audi R8 Spyder Performance
Price £152,645 (£169,120 as tested)
Performance 5204cc V10, 612bhp, 3.2sec 0-62mph, 204mph
Efficiency 20.9-21.1mpg (official), 17.5mpg (tested), 302g/km CO2
Energy cost 37.3 per mile
Miles this month 1483
Total miles 4244
Check out our Audi reviews